Man is His Own Project
Sartre says that man is sovereign in assigning existence to himself through the act of will. This existentialist view depicts the idea that one is not based on the essence of a soul, but rather, based on decisions made throughout life. Sartre also believes that every man is responsible for all men. Man is independent, and the decisions that he makes will create an overall set of principles and beliefs for all of mankind. Man is nothing other than his own project.
Sartre writes that man is the one who gives himself purpose and creates himself. Sartre writes “Man is not only that which he conceives himself to be, but that which he wills himself to be, and since he conceives of himself only after he exists, just as he wills himself to be after being thrown into existence, man is nothing other than what he makes of himself.” (Sartre 22). Sartre is saying that man is not what he considers himself to be, he is what he does, and he is constantly changing. Man cannot be what he regards himself as unless what he considers himself to be is what he has already completed or what he is currently doing. He also states that man is only what he is until after he exists, because man knows what he wants to be until after he exists, he cannot know what he wants to be before because he does not exist yet.
This idea that man creates his “self” ties into the idea that existence precedes essence. Sartre says human are different from objects in the way that objects usually have a purpose before they are made. Sartre states “We mean that man first exists: he materializes in the world, encounters himself, and only afterwards defines himself. If man as the existentialist sees he is not definable, it is because to begin with, he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and the he will be, what he makes of himself” (Sartre 22). What Sartre is saying here is that humans are first simply there, he does not have a real purpose in the beginning, and only until a later time will they define a purpose for themselves through his own actions and decisions.
Sartre’s idea of mankind is that man creates himself in the sense of having a purpose. He however invents how he should do these things. The creator of mankind is God, but man is the one who makes of himself through his actions. He does not have the power to create his physical self rather he creates his character. Some people believe that the decisions a person makes are based on his soul or personality. According to Sartre, it is more likely that the conclusion a person reaches is due to the influence of ideas that they have made in the past. The personality they have is a product of the decisions they made, not the other way around. As Sartre states, one does not have a distinctive essence, but instead the choices that one makes is what shapes the person to be who they are in the end as well as what creates their reason for living.
Man should reach existence and find his purpose when he is...